Today was another beach day but it was an amazing beach.
We drove about 1 hour north to Harkers Island and then took a national park service ferry out to Cape Lookout National Seashore.
On the way out we pass Shackleford Banks which has a heard of wild horses. Once at Cape Lookout we took a shuttle truck the two miles down to the very tip of the cape. We walked part of the way back and then caught the shuttle the rest of the way to the lighthouse.
Red is the ferry, blue is the truck and green is walking.
The last few days have been very windy. Today is was nice and calm with a clear blue sky. The temperature was not bad either because even without much wind it did not seem that hot. The only problem is that the tide is quite high most of the middle of the day, which makes it harder to find any good shells.
The ferries run every 1/2 hour as long as there are 4 people minimum. You must tell them when you want to come back and if there are no people at a given time to go out they only send a boat out if people are scheduled to come back. For example we had said we wanted to come back at 3:45 but got to the landing at 2:30. We had to wait for the 3:15 because nobody was scheduled to come out or go back on the 2:45.
Off we go.
Shackleford Banks is home is a completely wild herd of 110 horses. They are not taken care of in any way and must fend for themselves. The only intervention is if the numbers get too high, then they will remove and auction off some of the foals. We saw some as we passed by.
They are federally protected and I think the guide said that they are the only living National Monument.
They are descendants of Spanish horses that swam ashore after the ships they were on wrecked on one of the many shoals here in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.
You are allowed to hike around the island but must stay away from the horses. We dropped a few people off on the way out.
On the way back in the afternoon we saw some more that had swam out to a sandbar to eat the grass there.
Heading in for a landing near the lighthouse.
The ferry ride was $16 each and the pickup truck ride to the cape was $10 each. We had asked at the visitors center about walking to the tip of the cape but it is 2 miles through a lot of soft sand so we took the ride down and walked part of the way back.
From the google earth view above you can see that part of the cape is forested. These trees were planted to stabilize the sand and protect the lighthouse.
Off we go on our bumpy ride.
Before is was made a national park there was a small seasonal village of fishermen and well as the lighthouse keeper and some shipwreck rescue personnel. The driver gave us a description of some of the buildings.
Out onto the beach for the drive down to the end.
About a mile from the end the cape turns into a a wide flat sand plain.
We got dropped off just before the end.
There is a car ferry that operates from the far end of the island. Suitable 4 wheel drive vehicles can get a permit to come and travel down the beach. A bunch of people were camped at the end, fishing.
Jennie spent most of her time looking for shells. You can see the lighthouse far off in the distance, below.
I saw this swimming off shore. A shark?
Normally you get picked up by the driver for the trip back at the drop-off point. We asked if he could pick us up if we wanted to walk part of the way back. No problem. He makes a trip once an hour. We caught the second trip back that passed us.
Starting our walk up the cape. Because of the prevailing winds the western side has better shelling, we stuck to that side first.
You feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.
I noticed that he does the trip out on the western side and the trip back on the eastern side so we had to cross that vast plain if we wanted to catch a ride.
You can just see the trucks at the tip far in the distance.
Once we reached the other side I saw someone walking back where we were. Wide Angle.
Looking back again. There were not many shells on this side.
A whole lot of nothing.
Getting closer to the lighthouse.
We thought about walking all the way but it is so hard to judge distances that we thought we had better take the truck in case we got too tired.
Here it is coming up the beach.
Part of the beach on the eastern side near the lighthouse is off limit to vehicles. The transition from mostly sand to shell fragments was amazing. I guess all the vehicles break them completely down.
A few spots were just carpeted in shell fragments.
One final look back. The arrow point to the tip of the cape.
Heading across to check out the lighthouse.
Unfortunately we are too early to be able to climb to the top. It opens on May 16th. Also, the old keepers house is a museum but it is being renovated.
It is the same design as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This one was first. The diamond pattern indicates the directions. Black is north south, white is east west.
And another photosphere from here.
Jennie checked out this small whale rib in the visitors center while we waited for the boat back.
A few rays were swimming under the dock.
There were only 2 people scheduled to go back at 3:15 so they only sent a small boat but as you are allowed to take another boat if there is room, there turned out to be 17 of us. We just fit.
Here is some of Jennie’s collection for the day. Everybody we saw came back with grocery bags just brimming with shells.
Each of the larger shells are about 6 inches long and VERY heavy in a backpack.
Today was a really great one but the pictures just don’t do it justice. Another place you have to see in person.